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Headword: Καρκίνος
Adler number: kappa,396
Translated headword: Carcinus, Karkinos
Vetting Status: high
An Attic poet. Someone is mocking Carcinus’ sons[1] thus: "homebred quails, kitbag-gulleted dancers, dwarfish, bits of dung, inventers of artifices."[2] "For their father said that, one evening, a weasel had strangled [the drama which he unexpectedly possessed]."[3] He calls them quails because of their combativeness; for that [is] what quails are like. [And he calls them] "homebred" instead of effeminate, as if one were to say homebred birds. And “kitbag-gulleted”, that is long-necked; for a soldier's kitbag is an [item of] elongated wickerwork. So [it is] likely that their whole body was short but their neck long, or that they did not have a gullet, just like the kitbag; so he is mocking them for having small and round bodies. They also used to dance for their father. “Dwarfish” because very short people are called dwarfs; while very short horses [are called] naggies. And “dancers”; because their father introduced them as dancers in his dramas. And “bits of dung” instead of small and insignificant. “Dung” is the turd of goats and sheep, and the dung has the size of a broad bean. So he likens them to those, or rather not even to those, but to their bits and pieces. He humiliates them for being short. Because a part of something small is small itself or even less than small. And “inventers of artifices” from a part; because Xenocles,[4] the son of Carcinus, is supposed to have introduced devices and juggleries in his dramas; Plato calls him “twelve-machine”.[5] Or because as tragic poets they brought in machines, whenever they represented gods ascending to or descending from heaven. Their father composed a drama entitled Mice. “Unexpectedly”, that is to say with hard work. And he says that “a weasel had strangled”, because weasels choke mice at night.
Greek Original:
Καρκίνος, ποιητὴς Ἀττικός. σκώπτει δέ τις Καρκίνου παῖδας οὕτως: ὄρτυγας οἰκογενεῖς, γυλιαύχενας ὀρχηστάς, ναννοφυεῖς, σφυράδων ἀποκνίσματα, μηχανοδίφας. καὶ γὰρ ἔφασχ' ὁ πατὴρ γαλῆν τῆς ἑσπέρας ἀπάγξαι. λέγει δὲ ὄρτυγας μὲν διὰ τὸ ἐριστικόν: τοιοῦτοι γὰρ οἱ ὄρτυγες. οἰκογενεῖς δὲ ἀντὶ τοῦ ἐσκιατραφημένους, ὡς ἂν εἴποις ὄρνιθας οἰκογενεῖς. γυλιαύχενας δέ, τουτέστι μακροτραχήλους: γύλιος γὰρ στρατιωτικόν ἐστι πλέγμα ἐπίμηκες. κολοβὸν οὖν εἰκὸς εἶναι αὐτοῖς τὸ ὅλον σῶμα, τὸν δὲ τράχηλον μακρόν, ἢ αὐχένας οὐκ ἔχοντας, καθάπερ ὁ γύλιος: ὡς μικροὺς οὖν καὶ γογγυλώδεις σκώπτει. ἐχόρευον δὲ οὗτοι τῷ πατρί. ναννοφυεῖς δὲ ὅτι νάννοι λέγονται οἱ κολοβοὶ τῶν ἀνθρώπων: οἱ δὲ κολοβοὶ τῶν ἵππων ἴννοι. ὀρχηστὰς δέ: εἰσέφερε γὰρ αὐτοὺς ὁ πατὴρ ἐν τοῖς δράμασιν ὀρχουμένους. σφυράδων δὲ ἀποκνίσματα, ἀντὶ τοῦ ταπεινοὺς καὶ μικρούς. σφυράδες δέ εἰσι τὰ τῶν αἰγῶν καὶ προβάτων ἀποπατήματα, ἡ δὲ σφυρὰς κυάμου ἔχει τὸ μέγεθος. ταύταις οὖν ἀπεικάζει αὐτούς, μᾶλλον δὲ οὐδὲ ταύταις, ἀλλὰ τοῖς ἀποκνίσμασιν αὐτῶν καὶ ἀποτμήμασιν. εὐτελίζει οὖν αὐτοὺς διὰ τὸ βραχύ. ἡ γὰρ τοῦ μικροῦ μερὶς μικρὰ ἢ οὐδὲν ἂν εἴη. μηχανοδίφας δὲ ἀπὸ μέρους: Ξενοκλῆς γὰρ ὁ Καρκίνου δοκεῖ μηχανὰς καὶ τερατείας εἰσάγειν ἐν τοῖς δράμασιν: ὃν Πλάτων δωδεκαμήχανόν φησιν. ἢ ἐπειδὴ πολλάκις ὡς τραγῳδοὶ μηχανικὰ εἰσέφερον, ἡνίκα θεοὺς ἐμιμοῦντο ἀνερχομένους ἢ κατερχομένους ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ. ὁ πατὴρ δὲ δρᾶμα ἐποίησε Μύας. παρὰ προσδοκίαν, τουτέστι μετὰ μόχθου. γαλῆν δὲ εἶπεν ἀπάγξαι, διότι αἱ γαλαῖ νυκτὸς πνίγουσι τοὺς μύας.
This entry is a commentary on Aristophanes, Peace 788-795, quoting the verses and then drawing on the corresponding scholia. See also alpha 2802, gamma 475, gamma 476, epsilon 3402, iota 385, nu 26, sigma 1208, sigma 1762; also epsilon 1147; and see below for modern scholarship on Carcinus and his sons.
Two more tragic poets by the name of Carcinus appear in kappa 394; cf. kappa 397.
[1] Xenocles, Xenotimus and Demotimus.
[2] Aristophanes, Peace 788-791 (web address 1).
[3] An abridged version of Aristophanes, Peace 792-795 (web address 2), according to which, as it is clarified at the end of the entry, a weasel is supposed to have strangled Mice, a drama written by Carcinus.
[4] On Xenocles, see also Aristophanes, Thesmophoriazousae 169, 441 (web addresses 3, 4), Frogs 86 (web address 5) and the corresponding scholia; also the scholia to Clouds 1261; Xenocles’ extant fragments in Snell, p. 153.
[5] Plato [Comicus] fr.143 K-A (134 Kock).
Borthwick, E.K., “The Dances of Philocleon and the Sons of Carcinus in Aristophanes’ Wasps”, CQ n.s. 18 (1968) 44-51
Olson, S.D., “Was Carcinus I a Tragic Playwright?: A Response”, CPh 92 (1997) 258-260
Rothwell, K.S. Jr., “Was Carcinus I a Tragic Playwright?”, CPh 89 (1994) 241-245
Snell, B., Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta, vol. 1, Göttingen 1971
Sutton, D.F., “The Theatrical Families of Athens”, AJP 108 (1987) 9-26
Associated internet addresses:
Web address 1,
Web address 2,
Web address 3,
Web address 4,
Web address 5
Keywords: biography; comedy; geography; imagery; medicine; military affairs; poetry; stagecraft; trade and manufacture; tragedy; zoology
Translated by: Ioannis Doukas on 11 August 2007@17:45:01.
Vetted by:
Catharine Roth (added alternative headword spelling, other cosmetics) on 11 August 2007@22:11:36.
David Whitehead (tweaks to tr; more x-refs; more keywords) on 12 August 2007@05:08:44.
Catharine Roth (typo) on 12 August 2007@12:11:08.
David Whitehead on 28 January 2013@04:56:21.
Catharine Roth (tweaked note) on 13 April 2019@01:24:12.


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